Prof Alison H Banham
Emeritus Professor of Haemato-oncology
Radcliffe Department of Medicine (RDM)
Nuffield Division of Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NDCLS)
Tell us a bit about your role
I studied at Oxford as an undergraduate (Botany) and postgraduate (DPhil) and after working in several departments, I moved to the John Radcliffe to pursue a career in cancer research, in what is now RDM. When my lab head was due to retire, I and another postdoc in the lab spoke to our funders about establishing our own laboratories. This conversation and the subsequent support from the Leukaemia Research Fund (now Blood Cancers UK) enabled me to establish my own research group. I identified biomarkers to help identify high-risk cancer patients and made therapeutic antibodies as new drugs for cancer treatment. I also held a senior leadership role as Head of NDCLS for several years and established and chaired the RDM Mentoring Committee.
I decided to take early retirement, age 55, earlier this year. I wanted some new challenges and a lot more fun. However, I did not wish to sever ties with the University and I continue to have a role within RDM and sit on their Athena Swan, Career Development and Mentoring Committees. I am also a Research Associate in Medical Sciences at St Catherine’s College, where I am a college advisor for graduate students.
What is the most meaningful aspect of your work?
Scientific career progression remains a challenging prospect with talent and hard work not necessarily being enough to succeed. Being willing to ask for what you want and to take calculated risks is important. I want to be a visible reminder that ‘nice’ people who care about their staff can succeed and that it is also possible to have a fulfilling research career while still having a family. I enjoy helping a broad range of staff within RDM get the most out of their career opportunities and also helping them solve some of the inevitable problems they encounter along the way.
Can you tell us about something you've done, contributed to that you're most proud of?
I think helping to establish the RDM Mentoring Scheme and its subsequent success is something I am particularly proud of. It is easy to be proud of scientific achievements but this is something a little different. The RDM Mentoring Scheme has helped both staff and students with their careers and personal lives and has brought people together from across geographically separate areas of the Department. We have also helped other Departments establish their own mentoring schemes and hope that this will be an Athena Swan Beacon activity.
What changes would you most like to see in the Medical Sciences in the next 100 years?
Very few of our PhD/DPhil students will ever become Principal Investigators who lead their own research group. I think we need to change the viewpoint that this should be the career goal to which they aspire and to better equip the majority of our students to use their skills in other areas of science. I also think there should be opportunities for skilled senior postdocs to remain at the bench doing lab work.